Wednesday night at Blues Alley, trombonist Conrad Herwig and Fuego Tropical brought a new rhythmic perspective to the music of John Coltrane. Drawing most of their repertoire from their 1997 album "The Latin Side of John Coltrane," they performed a set that offered a varied climate of musical storms and mists.
Beginning with the mellow funk of "A Love Supreme," Herwig and his sextet built progressively through a compact set of Coltrane standards. A pensive performer with an acute sense of dramatic tension, Herwig is not one to scramble around trying to find every note on the scale. He takes time to find a song's secret places with a sense of curiosity and rich, round tones. The audience also got a glimpse of the band's future projects with a mambo rendition of Miles Davis's "Freddie the Freeloader." The ensemble took "Blue Train" for quite a ride, with Herwig and ace trumpeter Brian Lynch trading off in a blistering exchange.
Each member of Herwig's ensemble created a clearly defined presence, from Joe Santiago's meaty bass lines to Edsel Gomez's piano, which kept the band cooking with his chunky montunos and strikingly inventive solos. Saxophonist Phil Vieux blew images of shimmering delicacy in the ensemble passages of "Naima," and reached way down deep for some intense baritone solos. Drummer Robbie Ameen and percussionist Renato Thoms were notable as much for their virtuosity as their complete integration within the ensemble.